What’s New with InDesign CC 2017
Small tweaks and fixes—along with a new file format—mark the 12th major version of InDesign.
This article appeared in Issue 91 of InDesign Magazine.
Adobe seems to have some confusion about dates. Throughout 2016, the most up-to-date versions of InDesign CC have been called InDesign CC 2015. Now, just before the end of 2016, a new version arrives called InDesign CC 2017 (Figure 1). I think we can attribute this to the strange quirks of Adobe Marketing.
This new version is significant because it’s a major update that requires a new file format version. This means that if someone using InDesign CC 2017 creates a new file, and you open it using an earlier version of InDesign CC, the Creative Cloud will convert the file to your older version. (There were five versions of InDesign CC 2015. No conversion was necessary between those versions.) If you’re unfamiliar with the process, I’ll explain how it works at the end of the article.
That said, even though this is considered a major update, longtime users will be disappointed to hear that there are very few new features in this release. Instead, this update concentrates on bringing enhancements to existing features—including footnotes, OpenType features, arrowheads applied to strokes, and the appearance of the user interface.
Support for Spanning Footnotes
Ever since InDesign’s footnote feature was introduced, footnotes inserted into multi-column text frames were always placed in the same column where the footnote reference appeared. For many years, users have been asking for the option to span footnotes across all the columns of the text frame.
Now, in InDesign CC 2017, you can choose either column-wide footnotes or footnotes that span the full width of the text frame. You can also mix the two styles of footnotes in the same document (Figure 2).
In the Layout panel of the Document Footnote Options dialog box, there is a new option: Span Footnotes Across Columns. Choosing this option establishes a document default for all footnotes to span the width of the frame.
If you open an existing document, footnotes will behave as they have in the past, unless you select the new option to span columns. For a new document, the Span Footnotes option is selected by default, but you can match the old behavior by deselecting the option with no documents open.
You can override the document default in the new Object > Text Frame Options > Footnotes panel for the current text frame. To override the document default, select Enable Overrides, and check or uncheck Span Footnotes Across Columns. This same panel also includes the choices for Minimum Space Before First Footnote and Space Between Footnotes (Figure 3).
To support this new feature, there is also a new object style option: Text Frame Footnote Options. In addition, this same option is found in the Find/Change Object properties.
Applying OpenType Features Contextually
OpenType fonts can include a wide variety of typographic features, but until now, it was a bit of a hassle to find out which OpenType features were available in a particular font. You had to go to the Control panel or Character panel menu, choose OpenType, and then check a list of possible OpenType features (sometimes in a submenu) to see which ones were available for the current font. In particular, stylistic sets (discussed below) were very difficult to use (Figure 4).
InDesign CC 2017 builds on earlier OpenType enhancements, and it’s now possible to see contextually which features can be applied, and to apply them directly.
Adding an OpenType “Adornment” on Text Frames
The little widgets attached to objects in the InDesign interface (such as the in and out ports of text frames) are technically called adornments. They let you choose options “in context” instead of going to a menu or dialog box. Adornments we use already include the little blue box (Anchored Object Control) and yellow box (Live Corners) already on our frames. InDesign CC 2017 adds another adornment at the bottom right of a text frame to allow you to view and apply OpenType features (Figure 5). It uses the slanted “O” icon, already found in font menus, which indicates an OpenType font.
If you select a single unlinked text frame, InDesign will try to determine which OpenType properties are applicable within that frame and provide options for you to apply them. (If your frame doesn’t contain an OpenType font, you’ll get the message, “OpenType properties are not applicable.”)
Clicking on the OpenType adornment opens a contextual menu showing a list of applicable attributes. You can choose to turn on attributes within the frame from the menu. The display will also attempt to highlight which characters will be affected by a particular attribute. In Figure 6, discretionary ligatures and OpenType fractions have already been checked, and a preview of those features shows in the display.
In fact, the adornment is also available when you make a selection with the Type tool, and it appears at the bottom right corner of your selection.
Notice in Figure 6 that you may still have to tweak the type. Selecting Fractions in the contextual menu could convert every combination of “number-slash-number” to a fraction—even dates such as 9/11.
Contextual Menu for Ordinals and Ligatures
The InDesign CC 2015.2 update brought a contextual menu for alternate glyphs and for OpenType fractions. InDesign CC 2017 adds similar contextual menus for ordinals and discretionary or standard ligatures.
For example, if you select a letter pair like st in the word start, and a discretionary ligature is available in the current font, it will be suggested and can be selected (Figure 7).
Similarly, if you select a number such as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc., the menu suggests the ordinal versions if they are available in the current font. Currently, this feature is only available for the English language.
Using the Mysterious OpenType Stylistic Sets
Some OpenType fonts with many alternate characters have them grouped into stylistic sets. This rather mysterious feature is finally made accessible and understandable in this InDesign release.
Stylistic sets are preselected groupings which allow for the global insertion of anywhere from one to twenty sets of alternates. This eliminates the task of selecting each alternate character individually, which is time consuming in large amounts of text.
Unlike with character styles, you can apply more than one stylistic set to a single block of text. Turning on each additional set adds new alternates.
Some earlier OpenType fonts (such as the richly styled Gabriola font from Microsoft) may simply number the sets: Set 1, Set 2, Set 3, and so on. That makes them particularly mysterious, because you have to experiment to discover what the set actually does.
Other more recent fonts give meaningful names that make them easier and more efficient to work with. For example, Hypatia Sans Pro has 14 stylistic sets with names such as “Stylistic set: sans serif forms,” “Stylistic set: simple lowercase forms,” and so on.
In previous InDesign versions, if a font had named stylistic sets, only their numbers were displayed, and the names were ignored. Now they are named wherever they are referenced in InDesign. You’ll see them in the Glyphs panel Show menu (which displays glyphs by their attributes), in the Character and Control panel menus (OpenType > Stylistic Sets), and in the Character Styles and Paragraph Styles OpenType Features entries.
Even better, when combined with the OpenType contextual menu for a text frame or selection, you can see where the alternate forms will be applied, and turn them on and off easily. Figure 8 shows an example of two alternate glyphs for the letter a, one of the many sets included in Hypatia Sans Pro.
Turning Off Contextual Controls
Of course, not everyone wants to see the various adornments that InDesign turns on by default. Fortunately, you can turn off the Live Corners and Anchored Object Control adornments in the View > Extras submenu. Strangely, the new OpenType adornment is not listed there.
Instead, there are two new controls in Preferences > Advanced Type that let you turn off the contextual OpenType displays. The first one turns off contextual controls for character alternates, fractions, ordinals, and ligatures. The second one turns off the OpenType adornment on text frames (Figure 9).
Arrowhead Scaling Control
Adobe Illustrator’s Stroke panel options were similar to those found in InDesign, but Illustrator has always offered more control over arrowhead scaling. Specifically, InDesign lacked the ability to do the following four things:
- Scale beginning and ending arrowheads independently
- Link the beginning and ending arrowheads so they could be kept in proportion as they are scaled
- Swap the start and end arrowheads
- Control how the arrowhead tips are placed in relation to the path ends
All these features are found in InDesign CC 2017 (Figure 10).
Now, both the beginning and ending arrowheads have an option to set the percentage of scaling, found underneath the appropriate Start/End menu of arrowhead choices in the Stroke panel. As in other places in the InDesign interface, a “link” icon can be turned on or off. This time, the link is called “Link start and end arrowhead scales.” When the link is clicked on, if you enter a new value for the start arrowhead, the end arrowhead scaling will change in proportion.
Arrowhead alignment options
In addition, there are two new Align options: arrowheads can be aligned so the arrowhead extends beyond the path end, or aligns just to the end of the path. This setting applies both to the beginning and ending arrowheads. In example 3 in Figure 10, I selected the former option (and selected the Direct Selection tool to show the path ends).
Conveniently, this feature is also found in three other areas of the InDesign interface:
- Object Styles Stroke & Corner Options
- Find Object Format Options in the Object tab of the Find/Change dialog box
- Eyedropper Options (double-click the Eyedropper tool); three new choices here are arrowhead tip alignment, scale factor for start arrowhead, and scale factor for end arrowhead
Reducing Eyestrain Redux
In the most recent release of InDesign CC 2015 (2015.4), various controls were increased in size and spaced farther apart. Making the controls larger worked well for users of HiDPI or Retina displays, but it caused havoc with others on older (and smaller) displays.
Because users can now see fewer controls on the Control panel, the Customize control (already available) has been made more discoverable. The control is now visible as a “gear” icon on the right end of the Control panel above the panel menu. Clicking it reveals the appropriate tool widget choices immediately, so less useful ones can be turned off.
Many users also complained that the height of window tabs (where the filename appears) had become too large. So there is a new preference: Preferences > Interface > Panels > Large Tabs, which can be turned off to make them smaller.
Hyperlink Performance Improvement
If a document has hyperlinks with destinations in other documents, InDesign must open those documents in the background to check them. Unfortunately, in long documents with many hyperlinks, this makes basic operations, like opening the Hyperlinks panel, scrolling through it, or editing hyperlinks, very slow.
The engineers have refined the algorithm for this process, and it has become much more efficient, giving a much improved performance over previous InDesign versions.
Opening InDesign CC 2017 Files in an Earlier Version
In the InDesign CC 2014.2 update (January 2014), a new feature made opening files from newer versions possible if you have a Creative Cloud subscription. If you are using the subscription version of CS6, or InDesign CC, CC 2014, or CC 2015 when you attempt to open an InDesign CC 2017 file, you’ll see a dialog box telling you that the file needs to be converted to your application version. It also warns that features in the newer version may be modified or omitted. All you have to do is click the Convert button, and the Creative Cloud will convert it.
InDesign CC 2017: Small Steps Forward
While this new release offers only incremental improvements, many of them are in response to long-standing feature requests. Try them out, and I think you’ll be pleased, especially if your documents include footnotes, hyperlinks, OpenType fonts, or arrows.